How to Effectively Mount a Comeback
Comebacks are some of the most inspiring events in sports. Headlines such as “The Greatest Comebacks in Sports History,” “Biggest Comebacks in Sports” or “Best Comebacks Ever” are some of the most popular searches on the internet.
Every time a team is down in a series, like the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS or the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, some athletes tend to panic. Many players are consumed by the fact they need to win the next 3-4 games to advance in the playoffs. There is a sense a pressure with must-win games that causes players to press. The tendency is to try to do much, to make the perfect pitch every time and to swing for the fences. The fear of losing and being eliminated causes players to become tense, make more mistakes and not be “on their game.”
The key to making a comeback is to play one pitch at a time and stay relaxed through the process. No one has ever won three games with one swing of the bat so be patient and stay loose.
Joe Maddon & His Philosophy of Focus
Joe Maddon, manager of the Chicago Cubs, is one of the most successful and respected manager in the Major Leagues. Maddon is a two-time winner of the AL Manager of the Year and led the Tampa Bay Rays to a World Series title in 2002.
As his Chicago Cubs were down 3-0 to the New York Mets in the 2015 NLCS, Maddon preached playing relaxed and focusing on the moment. In fact, Maddon has gone to great lengths with his past teams to ease up the pressure experienced by players, including having exotic animals, a magician, a mariachi band and a D.J. in the clubhouse prior to games.
MADDON: “It’s a tension-free kind of a game [being focused in the moment].” So anything I can do to promote that, that’s what I attempt to do. I really think to bring out the best in your group, the best thing to do is to somehow get them to be able to relax and think in the moment and be mentally relaxed. That is my biggest concern, always.”
One Game at a Time
Mark Teixeira, first baseman for the New York Yankees, provided his take on what it would take for the Chicago Cubs to make a comeback, focusing one game at a time.
TEIXEIRA: “It’s the worst cliché. Joe Maddon needs to go to that team and say, ‘One game, guys. Tonight. That’s all we’re going to worry about is one game.’ Because if you say, ‘I need to beat this team four times in a row,’ you won’t do it.”
The only way to mount a comeback is to win one game at a time and the sole means to win is to focus one pitch at a time or being immersed in the moment. Playing one game at a time doesn’t guarantee a successful comeback but it puts you in position to make the best attempt possible.
The Mental Tool Shed: 2 Effective Strategies to Focus One Game at a Time
Strategy #1: Remind yourself that you must be skilled to reach the level you have currently attained. When you define yourself by your talents and successes, you will be more confident and less worried about future outcomes.
Strategy #2: Tell yourself that you don’t have to win four games but one game four times. This mindset will lock you into playing in the present.